ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mark McLemore first called Adam Jones in June 2003, the day Jones was drafted by the Seattle Mariners. They are 21 years apart, but the two were from the same San Diego neighborhood and both went to Morse High.
McLemore, who played three of his 19 major league seasons with the Orioles, was asked by a teacher that both he and Jones had to serve as a mentor for the player as he was coming up through the minor leagues. McLemore agreed and wasted no time fulfilling that role.
"On draft day, [the teacher] called me and told me that he was probably going to get drafted, and the Mariners drafted him and I was with the Mariners at the time," McLemore said. "She called me and said, `I want you to take care of him.' I said, `OK.' I talked to him on [draft] day, and ever since then, we just kept in touch."
Jones, the Orioles' center fielder, and McLemore still talk three or four times a week, with most of the conversations spent with McLemore fielding Jones' questions. Sometimes they talk exclusively about baseball, other times about life in general. McLemore, who is retired but still does some work with the Texas Rangers' organization and was among several players honored before their home opener yesterday, stopped by the Orioles' clubhouse to talk to Jones before the Orioles' 8-1 victory over the Rangers.
"He's a great kid. I just try to give him some encouragement, let him know what to expect, what being in the big leagues is all about," McLemore said. "He's a very mature kid for his age. I really hate even calling him a kid. He doesn't act like a 22-year-old. He's made tremendous strides the past couple of years. He's where he belongs, right here in the big leagues. I think this is a great situation for him."
Asked how good he thinks Jones will be, McLemore said: "There is absolutely no ceiling. He can be as good as he wants to be. I think he's definitely going to be one of the great young players in the game."
Another pitcher needed?
With his team in the midst of a stretch of 37 games in 38 days, Orioles manager Dave Trembley acknowledged that he's still considering adding a 13th pitcher to his roster and demoting a position player.
"I thought about it in spring training, and I'm still thinking about it now because I don't want to overburden the guys in the bullpen," Trembley said. "Really, that question will be answered depending on how your starting pitchers do."
Trembley said that as long as two or three starters are consistently getting deep into games, he won't have to make changes. And even if he does, he expects them to be temporary.
Trembley gave third baseman Melvin Mora the day off yesterday and could give second baseman Brian Roberts and first baseman Kevin Millar a rest in the coming days. It's all part of his plan to keep the veterans fresh, so they don't wear down after the All-Star break. Yesterday's decision to sit Mora was especially difficult because he hit a two-run homer Monday and the team has been playing so well with him in the lineup. Scott Moore started at third yesterday and went 1-for-4 with a solo home run.
"I wrestled with it because I want to do what is right, but I'm looking at the big picture, too," Trembley said.
Mora was fine with the day off, saying: "It's not what I need, but everybody needs to play. To be a winning team, you need to keep everybody in shape and ready."
Around the horn
Injured relievers Chris Ray and Fernando Cabrera, who are rehabilitating in Sarasota, Fla., will meet up with the team during the Tampa Bay Rays series this week and throw in front of pitching coach Rick Kranitz. ... Utility infielder Freddie Bynum (right knee surgery) has started doing baseball activities and should be ready to play in extended spring training games this week. ... Brian Burres and Jeremy Guthrie celebrated birthdays yesterday, and Adam Loewen and Dennis Sarfate will do the same today.